The First Annual Miami Pop Festival was a huge success in almost every way possible. The program, which included over 35 acts, was planned over a three day spread. It was and inexpensive - seven dollars per day for ten hours of music. The equipment and technicians were professional and the musicians were top quality.
Tom Rounds, the producer, desires a lot of praise for the way he handled the whole affair. At Gulfstream Pane, the festival had two stages set up at different ends so that people could move to and fro while groups of musicians either set up or played. The park was full of enormous artsy-facts which were painted In day-glow paint. Some groups stayed after they did their set and just sat around listening to others.
Over 30 major groups were involved in the Miami scene. The scope of what they had to offer staggered the imagination from Flatt & Scruggs to the Grateful Dead. One could see, hear feel all the rivers of music that have formed this new musical ocean called rock. The groups were from the top-twenty surfacing underground, soul, R4B, folk, jazz blues and even some gospel.
One of the best groups there was Pacific Gas and Electric. Relatively unknown to Eastern people , they brought people to their feet constantly. Chuck Berry a legend himself, did the next show. Memories of early sixties and my first 45 records came to mind as he did songs like 'Sweet Sixteen' and 'Memphis'. In many ways he Is so far ahead of his times.
Terry Reid was next. Something about this slim 19 year old English singer says future star. Aretha Franklin has said about him, 'There are only three can't show one-tenth of what they The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Terry Reid.' He's one of the most exciting performers that I've seen in quite a while.
The sincerity of Buffy Sainte- Marie was never in question. She always puts her heart and soul into her songs. Her beauty Is that she can put the audience into her trip. Her encore of Universal Soldier was sung by a majority of the audience. The first day the police numbered 200 plus expecting all kinds of trouble. It blew their minds that all the kids wanted was to be left alone to enjoy the music. The next day their number had dropped to 70.
This was the first time I had seen the Grateful Dead. Friends who have witnessed their free concerts In San Francisco have told me that their records can't show one-tenth of what they are like in person. Their jazz which they interpret as rock is sensational. One song lasted over an hour and not once bored the audience.
Richie Havens was beautiful as usual. He had the whole audience singing his favorite song, 'Little Help From Your Friends.' Even some of the hip police sang along. Music conquers all.
I had the pleasure of finishing dinner Saturday night with folksinger Joni Mitchell. Graham Nash, formally of the Hollies, at the table, talked about this new band that he, Steve Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and David Crosby (Byrds) have formed. They want to explore new areas of music which their groups hadn't gone into. Mitchell in concert was superb. She came back for five encores and ended the performance with the help of friends Richie Havens and Graham Nash. The song was Dino Valente's 'Get Together'.
Procol Harum shined on brightly twice during the Festival. As songs such as 'Whiter Shade of Pale' floated across the fields, once difficult metaphysical poetry began to be understood. People lay on the grass listening, smoking and just BEING.
Paul Butterfield followed with some old time Chicago blues and ended with his new stuff. There is something very religious about 'In My Own Dream* when Butterfield sings it. Another beautiful part of the Festival was that the people weren't afraid to flow with the rhythm. Dancing occurred during sets of Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly and The Grateful Dead.
Country Joe and the Fish had some difficulty with their equipment. Throughout the performance the organ kept losing power. Jack Cassidy, of the Jefferson Airplane, played bass. The Fish are breaking up and their regular bassist had split early. Cassidy, a friend, was filling in for them while on vacation. They finished the set with a Jam that blew their entire system. The lead guitarist, Stones, couldn't quite understand what was really going on and kept wandering around the stage screaming, 'What happened, what the hell is happening!'
It was appropriate that Jose Feliciano should get the honor of closing the Festival. One of the most popular artists of '68, his style incorporates blues, jazz, soul and rock. His was the perfect ending.
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